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USA Today reports that "consuming high amounts of ultra-processed food and drinks could increase the risk of developing depression in women, new research suggests.

"The findings indicate this is especially true with the consumption of artificial sweeteners and artificially sweetened beverages, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Network Open … The link between ultra-processed foods and depression remains unknown, according to the study. However, recent experimental data implies that artificial sweeteners evoke purinergic transmission in the brain, possibly leading to the development of depression."

According to the story, "Coauthor Dr. Andrew T Chan, an immunology and infectious diseases professor at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said ultra processed foods have long been linked to chronic inflammation, which has been linked to depression. He added that changes in the gut microbiome caused by consuming ultra processed foods may link to depression.

"'Ultra-processed food [and] the kinds of foods that people eat may tend to promote certain bacteria or other microorganisms in the gut to be dominant, and some of those microorganisms may be associated with chronic inflammation or other factors that could lead to depression or other mood disturbances,' Chan told USA Today."

The foods included in this assessment are "prepackaged soups, frozen pizza, ready-to-eat meals, sauces and pleasure foods like cheeseburgers, hot dogs, French fries, sodas and desserts such as cakes, candies, doughnuts, ice cream and store-bought cookies. Many of these foods and drinks contain artificial sweeteners."

The story notes that "the study did not include men preserving the results most relevant for women.  Chan said he believes it's crucial to continue examining this link in other populations, including populations of men."

KC's View:

Ironic, since just yesterday we took note of a Washington Post story about a new study suggesting that tobacco companies that "hooked people on cigarettes by making their products more addictive" used those same strategies to get people hooked on processed foods.

I'm not sure these stories and studies will crate any sort of additional momentum away from processed foods, but at the very least they ought to be a wake up call.